More from Less

Nice catch from Klein via Yglesias:

Robert Frank, an economist at Cornell University, is one of the more innovative tax thinkers I know. In particular, I’ve always been partial to his proposal for a progressive consumption tax (pdf). So I ran the plan by him, as well. “The progressive budget proposal is of course an enormous improvement over the bizarre Ryan budget,” he said, “which for all its chest thumping about facing up to the hard choices, does nothing — absolutely nothing — to reduce long-run deficits.” But like Gale and Burman, Frank wanted to see more simplification and reform. In particular, he wanted more attention given to what we tax with an eye toward two-fers: raising more money off of things we want less of. “When we enter congested roadways, or buy heavy vehicles, or drink to excess, or emit CO2 into the air, we impose costs on others,” he says. “Taxing such activities kills two birds with one stone: It generates much needed revenue, and it curtails activities that cause more harm than good. Because these taxes make the economic pie bigger, it makes no sense to object that we can’t afford them.” He recommended this piece (pdf) for more on those ideas.

Emphases from the link. But the key: raising more money off of things we want less of. The whole idea of a two-fer has only yet manifested itself in the heads and hearts of those who want to keep their tax money and penalize the poor, children and the elderly by teaching them some kind of lesson.

But Frank’s is the real way to get to the things that matter, one that also has many corollaries, among them: make sure more people finish school and can go to college, wherever they are from, so that they can get jobs and spend a long productive life of at least intermittent happiness paying taxes. Hello?

Banning certain kids from college is stupid. Not taxing the externalities of energy production, ditto.